Luminar – The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

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I recently embarked on a project of creating black and white images for an upcoming exhibit at an art gallery. The images have been shot, now the only question that remains is how will I handle the post-processing. In years past I’ve relied heavily on Lightroom and also Nik Silver Efex (yep remember that program). I have found, however, that the black and white conversions and looks created by the Nik Collection are starting to get a little dated.

It was very trendy some years ago to process in Silver Efex, but now that Google is no longer updating the program I find that the presets are not working as well for creating looks that appeal to today’s art buyers.

Note: The Nik Collection was sold to DxO who will be continuing its development. At the time of this writing, it is still free, but new versions or upgrades will likely come with a charge.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

One of the images in the collection. I used Lightroom for some initial adjustments then used Luminar as a plugin to finish off the editing.

So I decided to process my images using Luminar by Macphun. I was already familiar with the program and the easy to use interface, so I thought I would push myself a little further and edit these images looking specifically to process for black and white.

Preset Black and White Workspace

One of the first things to be aware of is that Luminar offers a Black and White specific workspace. By clicking on the workspace tab, you will bring up a variety of tools that will help you to process for black and white conversions.

The workspace includes some filters like Colour filters, Exposure/Contrast, Highlights/Shadows, as well as Clarity/Detail, and a few others. The Curves filter is nicely constructed in that you can adjust RGB as well as the separate colors with just a simple click of the mouse.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

In this image, you can see that I’ve set the workspace to B&W for black and white conversion.

I was also able to add additional filters to the list and remove others quickly and easily. For the majority of my images, I don’t tend to use textures, so I removed this filter from the workspace. If I were to process another set of images, I might use this filter, but for now, it was easier to remove it. You will notice that once you start adding or removing filters, the workspace becomes a custom setup.

Create your customized Workspace

One of the features that I like about Luminar is the fact that I can create a customized workspace. I am still in the process of tweaking my black and white filters so I can quickly and easily choose a specific workspace with which to start. One that will offer me the filters I need for easy black and white conversions aiming at a variety of different looks. For instance, I can create workspaces for grungy black and white conversions as well as ones that would mimic vintage film looks.

So I added filters to the workspace and made a custom set for processing to my tastes. Filters I removed; Texture Overlay, Grain, Soft Glow, Curves, and Vignette. I added the Advanced Contrast filter. You can also collapse any of the filters you aren’t working at the moment by clicking the little triangle icon just left of the filter name. That will give you more work area and less need to scroll up and down the filters panel.

Adjustment Brushes

Luminar also offers users the opportunity to make specific local adjustments with the Brush and Radial Mask tools. For one specific image, I used the brush to paint in my adjustments to only specific parts of the image. The brush tool creates a mask where you can selectively apply edits to your image.

Read more about this technique here: How to use Filter Masks in Luminar for Powerful Local Adjustments

Here you can see how I am applying the Highlight/Shadow filter only to a select area using the brush and a filter mask.

Workflow

So without further ado, I will take you through the steps I used to edit this image. As you will see, Luminar is a very quick and simple to use program that lets you edit your work in the matter of a few moments.

Step 1 – Presets

I always start by viewing my images in the presets. Who knows, one of them might just work and then my job is done. Luminar has these huge previews of each preset at the bottom of the screen, I find them very useful. This one is called “Bloody Mary”. I like the hint of color it includes but for this upcoming exhibit it won’t fit with the rest of the images so I’ll have to save this effect for later.

Step 2 – Black & White Workspace

Next, I chose the Black and White workspace and then started to adjust the black and white points. I like to make sure that each of my images contains the full range of tones right from pure white to pure black. This is always one of my first steps. I make sure that my histogram touches both the left and right edges. This step is very important as it gives my prints a lot of depth.

Before adjusting the Black and White point sliders. Notice the lack of contrast in the image.

After adjusting the Black and White point sliders. This sets the pure black and pure white in the image and adds contrast.

Step 3 – Color Filters

My next step was to play with the color filters and sliders and see how they would affect the look of the image. Sometimes using a filter makes a specific part of the image pop. For this particular shot, I want to emphasize the bands of light that played across the tree trunk.

To do this click on “Edit” next to the colored circles, and then on the Luminance (brightness) tab. That will allow you to adjust the tones of each color individually. Play with them each to see how they affect your image.

In this image, if I move the red slider all the way to the left, you will see that the tones on the rock get considerably darker. While moving the slider to the left adds light to this part of the shot.

Before adjusting the color sliders.

Red slider to the left darkens any tones in the image that are red.

Red slider to the right lightens red and darkens opposite colors.

Step 4 – Structure

I wanted this shot to be much grittier and defined, so I adjusted the Structure Filter as well. The texture in the bark is important for the effect of the light on the trunk. The structure slider helps emphasize this.

These two shots show the effect Structure has on this image. In this first image, I’ve purposely moved the slider all the way to the left so you can see the effect. The second shot shows the slider moved further to the right. The ridges of the bark become much more defined as I played with this slider.

Structure Slider pulled all the way to the left.

Final toned-down Structure Slider.

Step 5 – Split Toning

For this series of images, I am pairing urban shots with nature shots. All the nature shots, however, were taken somewhere within the city of Toronto. The photos will also contain a slight hint of blue. I love that tone when it’s printed out on my textured fine art paper. I also like to pair this hint of blue with a slightly grey/blue matte when I frame the images for the gallery exhibit. It’s a subtly unique look.

You can see here I’ve exaggerated the saturation to determine if I liked the color. Then, once I had the hue I liked, I toned the colors down to add just a subtle hint of blue to the black and white image. I also adjusted the balance so that the tone of blue will show more in the shadows than in the highlights.

Exaggerated Split Toning Filter to judge the color.

Final Split Toning settings and look.

Step 6 – Final Adjustments

Finally, I added an Advanced Contrast filter. I wanted to give the details within the image some punch and this slider worked beautifully on this image. You can play around with the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows separately. After some adjusting, I shifted the highlight slider further to the right adjusting the effect of the contrast on the tree bark.

Advanced Contrast Filter turned off.

Advanced Contrast filter added.

Conclusion

Well, that’s it, folks. The editing was very quick and simple. The image is complete for now. I always like to leave my work for a few days and then come back to view the image again. A set of fresh eyes always helps in fine-tuning the details.

In closing, Luminar has proved to be a very quick and easy-to-use tool for completing black and white conversions. It offers the same versatility and creative opportunities as other programs and is truly a powerful application.

Before and after comparison. You can use the handy before/after slider to see all the changes you’ve made to your image. Just click the little icon at the top that looks like an open book, and move the slider across your image to see the effects.

Before and after image, side-by-side.

I like the fact that I can use it as both a stand-alone product and a plug-in for Lightroom. The interface is certainly easier to navigate than other programs and I enjoy working in Luminar. That certainly says something as I’m not the type who likes to mess around with post-processing.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

Read more from our Post Production category

Erin Fitzgibbon

is a freelance photographer, writer, and teacher, from Ontario, Canada. She specialises in portrait, sport, and fine art photography. In her free time, she escapes to the backcountry or the beach with her family.

  • I realize this is mostly an advertisement for Luminar, but fyi, Google has recently sold the NIK tools to DxO

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Well that’s too bad. There are an awful lot of school kids who take advantage of it being free.

  • HI @swanksalot:disqus Thanks for that – I have updated the article to indicate that as well. Sorry, oversight on my part as the editor. I did know it was sold.

  • Alan D Granger

    Are y’all shills for Apple?

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    LOL no. I have a PC too and Luminar also has a PC version they are working on. I do like my PC too. Yeah Windows.

  • FYI the Luminar windows version was released yesterday with Luminar 2018

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